Toby Keith's Loss Mourned In Tributes: 'My Heart Is Truly Broken'

Foto: Getty Images

Tributes quickly began to pour in for Toby Keith in the early morning hours Tuesday (February 6), after a statement on his social media channels confirmed the legendary country artist has died after a long battle with stomach cancer. He was 62.

“Toby Keith passed peacefully last night on Feb. 5 surrounded by his family. He fought his fight with grace and courage. Please respect the privacy of his family at this time,” reads a statement posted to Keith’s pages. Keith revealed in June 2022 that he'd been battling stomach cancer, and would take time off to rest and recover. He was diagnosed in fall of 2021. The beloved country music legend attended the inaugural People’s Choice Country Awards in late September in Nashville, Tennessee. He said at that time that his cancer battle had been “a little bit of a roller coaster,” though he was feeling “good today.” Keith was honored that evening with the first-ever Country Music Icon Award.

Keith married his wife, Tricia Lucus, nearly four decades ago in March 1984. He was also a father to Shelley Covel Rowland, Stelen Keith Covel and Krystal Keith. PEOPLE noted in a report Tuesday morning that Keith spoke highly of his family, telling the outlet in 2010: “Everybody in the family is good. I was raised by good parents and I have great kids. They don’t have any issues at all — none. They all grew up with me being successful, but they are not hooked on that part of the business.”

The post was quick to garner thousands of comments from other artists and longtime fans paying tribute to the “Should’ve Been A Cowboy” star, expressing their heartbreak and condolences for Keith’s family. One Instagram commenter was fellow country artist Randy Houser, who wrote, “God Bless you and Family. Hard to imagine an America without Toby Keith in it.”

“Even though I knew about your battle these last few months I still never imagined this day,” Blake Shelton said. “Anyone who knew you knows what I mean. You were the toughest man I ever met. Thank you brother for being a friend, a hero and an inspiration. There will never be another Toby Keith.”

Golfer John Daly added: “My heart is truly broken… one of my best friends gone by this disease! RIP Big Dawg…..”

Actress, singer and fellow Oklahoma-born artist Kristin Chenoweth mourned: “I loved him as a musician. A great Oklahoman. A great American. What a loss!”

Sister duo Tigirlily Gold wrote: “So terribly sad. His legacy will live on forever… some of the best songs in country music came from Toby. ❤️ prayers.” They added on their Instagram story: “This one hurts. Your legacy will live on forever. We could never get enough of your songs growing up & still feel the same way to this day! Prayers for his family.”

“Toby, you’ll be missed,” Corey Kent commented. “To me, you represented what a kid from Oklahoma could do with nothing but a dream & some songs. & man, those were some SONGS. I’m thankful for the opportunities you gave me & for the masterclass on live performance & hospitality. You’re a legend. RIP.”

Musician William Michael Morgan said, “Heartbreaking news. Praying for his family. Thanks Toby for being a bada** and someone a singer like me could look up to. RIP big dawg!”

“Damn, RIP [Toby Keith],” Luke Combs wrote. “I can’t believe you’re gone. You left one hell of a mark on country music and we all owe you one.”

“I’ll never forget this moment and this day,” Michael Ray wrote as he shared a previous post from the Houston Rodeo. “Thank you [Toby Keith] for your time. Rest easy cowboy.”

“From the artist that I listened to for years growing up to the man that took me on my first tour, thank you for everything you gave the world,” Jimmie Allen remembered Keith. “You will be missed but your legacy will live on. Rest (easy) Toby!”

“Love ya big dawg,” Jake Owen said. “I was lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time around this guy. He was an example of someone bigger than the music. His legacy outside the tunes are what any of us should strive for.” He added in a comment on the post on Keith’s page: “This hits hard. Love ya Toby and Trish. My ❤️ goes out to your family and thanks big dawg for what you did for this world. Rest high and easy.”

Zach Bryan referenced the lyrics of Keith’s collaboration with Willie Nelson, “Beer For My Horses,” as he shared: “Gott saddle up your boys, we love you and you will be missed.” Brian Kelley remembered the country giant as “an artist’s artist, a songwriter’s songwriter. A patriot, a legend. Damn what a loss. Blasting TK tunes all day. RIP cowboy.” Morgan Wallen remembered, “A Country Music and American Legend.” Other artists, including Frank Ray and Matt Stell, posted photos with the late country legend.

“We covered ‘Should’ve Been A Cowboy’ at very show last year — Toby inspired millions and I was one of them RIP,” Jelly Roll wrote in a statement on his Instagram story early Tuesday morning. RaeLynn remembered Keith as a “legend,” noting that song is one he wrote by himself. Jon Pardi’s wife, Summer Pardi, also took to her Instagram story to share the statement posted on Keith's page, and wrote: “Heartbreaking… my childhood was spent listening to Toby Keith on cassette tapes and singing along at the top of my lungs. Cancer sucks.”

“So sad waking up to this news,” Cole Swindell wrote as he shared iHeartCountry’s post. “Life is short. Tell folks you love them while you can.”

Tenille Arts, who also shared the statement about Keith, wrote that she “got to see Toby play one of his last shows a few months ago. And I cried. I had a gut feeling it would be one of the last but hoped it wouldn’t be true. Rest easy. It was one hell of a fight.” On the next slide, she added a video from Keith’s performance.

Keith recently played a run of shows in Las Vegas, marking his return to the stage amid his cancer battle. The beloved country artist performed in the midst of the National Finals Rodeo event in December. He quickly sold out back-to-back nights and added a third and final Vegas show. Keith said when he announced his final shows: It's been a while. You know what I've been doing - been on the old rollercoaster, but Almighty's riding shotgun. He's letting me drive for some reason.” It was the “first time in my whole life I've been off over two years. I've never been off a year in my life.”

Brooks & Dunn posted a tribute with each member of the iconic duo, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, posting individual statements to remember Keith.

“A troubadour gone too soon,” Dunn remembered the late music legend. “We played together, we sang together. He was a friend, ornery, rough, tough, kind and loyal… if he liked you. A rascal, an outlaw with a big heart. He was opinionated, usually his way or the highway. A patriot that acted, didn’t just talk it. He was a loyal husband and proud loving father. He was a big man, a fighter… in the end life wins. Give ‘em hell up there my friend !!! Our love, prayers and condolences go out to his lovely wife Tricia, daughters Krystal, and Shelley and son Stelen.”

“Waking up to losing Toby wakes up a lot of memories and realities – I remember the first time we actually met and talked – he was wearing a blue leather suit – we all wore horrible clothes back then – we got along from the beginning – he called ‘a spade a spade’ plain and simple - always – we asked him to come on tour with us somewhere in the late ‘90s, along with Keith Urban, and I’ll never forget after our first show together, he said ‘We’ve got to find a place to play’ …after that we would go find a house band after every show and burn ‘til the flame was gone – he was a relentless participant in every aspect of his life – performing, writing, golf, hanging with his friends, along with his dedication to the military and the Red White and Blue. But he always put his loyalty and love of God and family first – He was one of those guys I just assumed would always be there - HOF Cowboy Heart – RIP Big Man,” Brooks reflected.

“Toby Keith was a true trail blazer,” Old Dominion said in a tribute to the late country star on Tuesday morning. “Authentic and heartfelt but always with a wink ‘til the end. He was larger than life in so many ways and his music will live on forever! Raising our red solos tonight—you will be missed by so many. Peace.”

“Saddle up the horses, Jesus, ‘cause a true blue COWBOY just made his ride up to heaven!!!” Carrie Underwood, another Oklahoma-born country superstar, wrote in her tribute as she shared a few photos with Keith over the years. “Introduce him to all the Okies and sign that boy up for the choir! We’re gonna miss you, Toby, but my heart has no doubt that you are standing in the presence of our King right now!!! See you again someday, friend.”

“Country Music lost an Icon today,” Mitchell Tenpenny reflected. “Truly one of a kind. Rest in peace brother. I got to have one last conversation with Toby when I was on tour with Jason Aldean. I watched him surprise a crowd and electrify a room with ‘Should have been a cowboy’. Everyone was screaming and showing so much love to Toby. I was instantly brought back to being a kid and feeling inspired by his music once again. He handed me his drink before he walked on stage and I held it like a trophy. He talked about going on tour again and playing more shows. When he was done I handed him his drink back. He hugged me and said “how badass was that man?” You could see it in his eyes how much he loved what he did. I didn’t know it then but that was the last time I would see him. I now know how lucky I was to be able to a part of something so special. Praying for Toby’s family and wanted to say thank you to Toby for letting me open shows for him when we were just getting started. Thanks for all the advice and thanks for being a Bada**! Cheers to the big guy 🙏🏼🍻”

“Just waking up to the news of Toby Keith’s passing,” Aldean said in a statement of his own. “Today is a sad day for Country music and its fans. Toby was a huge presence in our business and someone we all looked up to and respected. You and your music will be forever remembered big man.”

“Toby Keith was big, brash, and never bowed down or slowed down for anyone,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “His story is a distinctly American one—a former roughneck oil worker who carved out his own space in country music with a sinewy voice and an unbending will to succeed. He wrote his breakthrough songs and later formed his own record label when he felt underserved by Nashville. He relished being an outsider and doing things his way. Proudly patriotic, he didn’t mind if his clear-cut convictions ruffled your feathers. For three decades, he reflected the defiant strength of the country music audience. His memory will continue to stand tall.”

Dustin Lynch shared a video with a young fan as the duo covered “Should’ve Been A Cowboy.” He wrote in his tribute: “thank you [Toby Keith], you inspired me and the next generation of cowboys we’ll ride on with you and make sure our flag flies high.”

Hailey Whitters reflected on her own covers of “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” playing it “in every bar at every gig I ever cut my teeth on… Godspeed, Toby Keith. Thank you for the songs.”

“Country music was better cuz he was in it,” Ray said. “Words can’t describe the loss of such an icon. He was unapologetically himself both in conversation and in music. He was incredibly caring and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. We’ll miss you my friend.”

“Woke up to news that Toby Keith had passed…. He was a class act, a friend and one of the most talented guys you’ll ever meet… We’ll miss you down here man… Rest in peace,” Brantley Gilbert captioned a photo with Keith.

Lee Ann Womack was feeling “very low this morning,” as she posted a photo with Keith, whom she remembers as “treasured in this family and will certainly be missed. I know he was a believer and is with the Almighty. Much love to his family. You’re in our prayers.”

A statement shared by Loretta Lynn’s family on the late “Coal Miner’s Daughter” legend’s Twitter account shared the sentiment that the country genre is family: “Country music is a family unto itself, and today our family hurts. Toby Keith was authentic country and a tremendous songwriter. Loretta loved both these things about him. Our family and the country music world grieves. We will miss you, Toby. Join us in praying for his family.”

Alan Jackson said he and his wife, Denise, “are saddened to hear about our friend [Toby Keith]. Our prayers are with Tricia and the entire Keith family.”

“Just arriving at American idol and seeing the sad news in our country community. An iconic artist and a great man. Your songs turn every room into a good time,” Luke Bryan posted with a red carpet photo standing next to the late country star.

“It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of Toby Keith,” the Country Music Association posted in a statement. “He has forever left a mark on Country Music. Our sincere condolences go out to his loved ones during this difficult time.”

“We are heartbroken by the passing of Country Music superstar [Toby Keith],” the Academy of Country Music posted on Tuesday morning. “A 15-time ACM Award recipient, including multiple wins for ACM Top Male Vocalist and ACM Album of the Year, he was named ACM Entertainer of the Year twice, in 2002 and 2003.

“With worldwide sales of more than 40 million albums, he built an exceptional career on well-sung ballads, barroom singalongs, and patriotic anthems, as well as heartfelt songwriting, for which he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as received the National Medal of Arts. Indeed, Keith wrote the vast majority of his no. 1 hits and had a chart-topping single every year for 20 consecutive years. He also dedicated himself tirelessly to countless charitable initiatives, including several USO tours and events. Most recently, he received the ACM Spirit Award, presented to a singer-songwriter who continues the legacy of Country legend Merle Haggard.

“Please join the Academy in sending love, healing, and prayers to his family, friends, and millions of fans all over the globe.”